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Vickroy: Mother’s reading habit led to son’s penchant for writing

MonicJoriwaves health care workers as they pass her doorway with her sJoe Jorilooking Smith Village Chicago Illinois Tuesday April 30

Monica Joria waves to health care workers as they pass her doorway with her son Joe Joria looking on at Smith Village in Chicago, Illinois, Tuesday, April 30, 2013. Monica is an avid reader and passed that on to Joe, a Chicago cop, and now the two are turning that love for reading toward writing. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: June 13, 2013 6:30PM



Mothers impart a lot of things to their children: wisdom, advice, recipes.

But sometimes the most endearing gift a mother leaves her son or daughter is a lifelong passion, something that sparks their interest, taps their creativity and engages them in the workings of the world.

And sometimes such gifts are handed down unknowingly, more by example than instruction.

Monica Joria didn’t become a writer until she recently began penning her autobiography. But in many ways, the 99-year-old South Sider and current resident of Smith Village in Chicago’s Morgan Park community lived the lifestyle of a writer — observing, analyzing and, most important, reading.

“An awful lot of writing comes from reading. She was a prolific reader and still is,” said her son, Joseph Joria, a retired Chicago police officer. “There were always books around the house.”

Mysteries, historical novels, all kinds of books.

“I love to read,” Monica said. “When I can’t sleep at night, I read.”

When Monica moved into Smith Village five years ago, and Sarah Jewett, director of residential services for assisted living, learned she had an interest in writing, Jewett suggested she join the on-site writers club, which meets monthly.

One thing led to another and before long Monica was helping with the retirement complex’s resident newsletter.

Her entries include book reviews and short essays that are essentially trips down memory lane.

She’s working on a piece about the changes in public transportation over her lifetime. She fondly recalls not only the streetcars, but the double-decker buses that used to transport people down Garfield Boulevard to Michigan Avenue for just 7 cents.

Joe said his mom, an extremely fast reader, always has a pile of books waiting to be cracked.

“I’m the same way,” said Joe, a married father and grandfather.

Like his mom, Joe developed a reading habit early and, later in life, it led to a new career quite unexpectedly.

One day, Joe was complaining aloud about how many “terrible mysteries are out there. Some are just silly.”

Someone replied, “Well, why don’t you write one yourself?”

He thought about it and then decided he would do just that.

That was 15 years ago. His first book, “The Price of Their Toys,” introduces character Ian Norman, a British professor who manufacturers expensive toy soldiers and dabbles in the mysteries that seem to arise while he’s on sales trips. That book, as well as his second, “Death and Texas,” are available on amazon.com.

Joe says his work with the police department, which took him all over the city and across most departments, exposed him to every kind of person.

“When I write, I have an awful lot of people and personality traits to draw from,” he said.

Between chapters, Joe is working toward a master’s in history. One day, he says, he may follow in the footsteps on his main character and teach at a university.

Joe recently experienced a writer’s worst nightmare, when a computer issue caused him to lose half of his newest novel.

His mother felt sympathy pains. She too has had work fall prey to that mechanical text eater.

“I accidentally erased my autobiography,” she said. “I just hit some key and, whoosh, it was gone.”

Some day, though, she says, the world will know her story, which is a happy, thankful one.

“I’ve had a good life,” she said.

She grew up in Visitation Parish in Chicago’s Englewood community. She attended St. Xavier University and Loyola University, where she earned a master’s degree in social work.

After she married Eugene Joria, she moved to 78th and Peoria streets, which is where Joe and his brother, Gerard, were born. She quit work to raise her sons.

She also traveled extensively, visiting Gerard, who worked for the State Department in Poland, Cyprus, Ireland and Athens. She’s also been to several places stateside, including California, Colorado and Disney World in Florida.

After Eugene, a former Chicago police officer and buyer for the city of Chicago, retired, the couple moved to Franciscan Village in Oak Brook and Monica began applying her social work skills, helping people there navigate the health care and social services networks. Eventually, they put her on the payroll.

After Eugene’s death, Monica moved to Smith Village, and Jewett quickly enrolled her in the writers club.

Like all readers, Monica wrestles with the way characters translate, or don’t, to the big screen. She recently tried to watch an episode of “Castle” on TV but couldn’t get through it because the characters were so different from how they are in the book.

When asked if she deserved credit for sparking an interest in writing in her son, Monica shrugged and turned to Joe.

“Did I set a good example?” she said.

“Yes, you did,” he said, smiling.

Both Monica and Joe are proud of the family’s youngest writer, Monica’s granddaughter and namesake, Monica Marier, Gerard’s daughter. She has authored several science fiction books that also are available at amazon.com.

“She has an amazing vocabulary,” Monica said.

And, in that loving way that a mother or grandmother, has of doling out compliments, she added, “She’s my favorite writer.”



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